Map Explore: Creating Customized Maps with Customized Questions

Now you can created customized, accessible maps to support your O&M lessons! Want to create a simple neighborhood map of your student's neighborhood with surrounding streets and label a couple of friends' houses? How about a map that includes a broader area around your student's home, school or local downtown area? The power of Map Explore is that YOU can create maps of local areas and you can choose what is included on each map. These maps can be designed to reinforce a specific O&M skill on your student's current level. Pins can be added to label areas on the map that are important to your lesson - without an overwhelming amount of pins that are standard with most map applications. You can choose to add only a handful of pins for beginner students or add more pins for students with advanced skills. And now, you can even Include customized questions to guide the lesson or to confirm your student's knowledge!

Sounds complicated, right? Not at all! The process of creating a customized map and questions is easy - even for someone who is not tech-savvy! Make a map by simply dropping pins and adding a labels. Type in a questions and answers. Done!

Tips for Creating the Student's First Map

As always, consider the goal of the map, the student's O&M skills, and the student's tech skills before creating a map. Remember, this technology is new for your student; even advanced O&M students and tech savvy students will need a few minutes to explore the map before using the map for O&M purposes.

For the first map, set your student up for success by creating a simple map - preferably a map of an area that your student is already familiar with. The goal of this first map is to teach the digital map skills, so keep it simple! The student will first need to learn how to trace a sonified street, listen for announcements and find pins, before he/she is able to use the map to build skills.

  • Small area -  A map of a 2 block area works well!
  • Number of pins - 5 or less 

Once the student has learned to explore the digital map, expand the map or create more complex maps. 


Creating a Customized Map

After the student's introduction to Map Explore, the goal of the map is to enable student to explore the streets and pins of important buildings/areas in the student’s local environment to help the student build a mental map. Students will learn the street names, important buildings/areas, and the spatial relationships of these streets and areas. Map Explore is intended for pre-viewing a location before a feet-in-the-street O&M lesson. Maps can also be made for other locations, not just local areas. Is your student going on a trip, visiting college campuses, or simply interested in learning about other communities? The possibilities are endless! As Dr. Seuss says, "Oh the places you'll go!" 

Step-by-step video tutorial demonstrating how to create a custom map with labels:


Note: Directions . . . . You can use this text box to define a specific term when teaching/practice a new goal. Example: If the lesson is about T-intersections, you can chose to include the definition of a T-intersection here.

General Tips When Creating Customized Maps

  • Place pins close - but not on - the street, even if the physical building is back from the street. Pins placed close to the street are easier for the student to find as he/she drags a finger along the sonified street.
    • If the street is physically located too far from the street, the student will miss the pin and will have search the entire screen to find the pin.
    • Example: The Chatham County Sheriff's Office (the building) is physically located away from the road; the pin is placed just off the road on the driveway to the actual building.

Screenshot of Google Map with Sheriff's Office labeled and pin by the street with annotation, "Sheriff's office pin moved closer to street"

  • When adding pins, you can add multiple pins and move them to the side of the map. Select the Full Screen option and then drag the pins to the desired location on the map.
  • Keep in mind that the game is played in Portrait Mode; the final map will be portrait mode (more space up/down and less space from left/right).
  • You can drag the map in any direction and you can zoom in or out as desired.
    • Only use + or - to zoom; do not zoom using the track pad.
  • You cannot define the perimeters of the map; Google Maps automatically adjusts the size of the map. The area of the map displayed in the game will depend on where your pins are located. The map automatically centers from the last view when you are creating your map. Therefore, when all the pins and questions are created, go back to your map and drag the map to re-align the map (center) the way you want. This will help determine which streets/areas around the pins are shown in the map.
  • For O&M best practices, place a "fun" location (label a building/landmark that is of interest to the student) on each important street or quadrant. The student should associate each street with a landmark.
  • "Save As":  Maps can be opened and tested on the iPad; editing may be required. Each edit is SAVE AS, meaning it saves a new map and does not override the existing map. Deactivate a map before assigning the next version of the map to the student's iPad so that the first map will not appear on the student’s iPad. If you do not use a new name, you will have two maps with the same name.
    • Hint: When I create a map, I might use the same name but add a version number. Example: Kevin's Neighborhood and School Map 1. If I make a change, the new map is Kevin's Neighborhood and School Map 2. When I am done with the final version, I go back and delete the prior maps.
  • Always check your map - and all questions - before using the map with a student. If you misspell a street name or pin name, you will not be able to answer the question correctly and the game will stop. Currently, you can not skip a question during game play.
    • Troubleshooting: If the game stops, it is probably because there is a question/answer with a typo or that cannot be answered correctly.
  • While you are learning to create maps, anticipate that you will need to try the map and then edit the map (which means you will need to give the original map with a new name!)

Progressive Map-Related Lessons

To create progressive maps/lessons, create a "basic" map for the initial lesson. The basic map can then be edited to teach different concepts or to dive deeper into the concept. (If editing a map, be sure to give a different name to the edited map!) The first map could use the default questions. (Default questions only ask the student to find a specific location on the map.) The second map might have additional pins and customized questions; the second map could be used to teach a different O&M concept, such as learning to spatially organize buildings/landmarks by quadrants.

If the young student is learning a new area, the student might learn a block or two around his house or school. Once the student has developed a good mental map of that area, expand the area to include additional blocks; be sure to additional pins. With the example of Kevin's Neighborhood and School Map, the map has 6 pins. These pins were carefully chosen as landmarks along the streets between Kevin's house and his school. These landmarks are useful when Kevin physically walks the route to/from school. Note that only pins along that route were used in this basic map; no pins were dropped on outlier streets. Several of the landmarks provide unique auditory clues such as the baseball field and tennis courts. Blossoms Flowers located on a strategic corner provides an olfactory clue, as there are always flowering plants outside of the shop.

Creating Customized Questions

After adding pins to the map, select the desired options in the template and write your customized questions. 

There are currently four types of questions to choose from. If you are using the map to teach a specific goal, you may decide to use only one type of question. (Example: If the goal is for the student to learn to organize landmarks by regions, you can add only "region" questions. Region questions have divided the map into four quadrants (northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest). Students only tap in the correct 'region' of the map to get a correct answer.)

When creating the questions, the O&M can determine if streets are announced or not. I typically choose to have the streets announced, so the student can use these announcements to associate pins with the nearby streets.

Four question types:

  • Regions 
  • Pins
  • Streets
  • Intersections

Note: North is always at the top of the screen and Map Explore maps are always in portrait mode.

Note: Currently, the questions are limited to these four types of questions and answers. O&M's can verbal ask the student more complex questions such as:

  • Name the north-south streets in sequence starting from the left side of the map.
  • Name the east-west streets in sequence starting from the top of the map.
  • Describe the route from your house to school. Be sure to include landmarks along the way!
  • Which street is a "T" intersection?

O&Ms can create a map that includes additional information such as a bus stop, traffic light controlled intersections, auditory landmarks, etc. Remember, these are CUSTOM maps!

Step-by-step video tutorial demonstrating how to create a custom questions, steps to save the map, and how to assign the map to a student:


Note: The Map Description can be more specific that what was in the video. A Map Description might be, "Student will practice mental mapping skills by exploring the map of his neighborhood and school. After exploring the map, the student will be asked to find specific locations and double tap on them."


General Tips When Creating Customized Questions

  •  ANSWERS: The street names must be typed in exactly as it appears on the map. The game will not associate the street name with the street on the map if they do not match. Example: If the Google Map displays "Farrell St" (with the abbreviated "St") when typing in the desired street name in the answer section of the customized questions, you must abbreviate "St". If you spell it out ("street") the game cannot associate the sonified street with your answer.
  • Note: When I create the QUESTIONS (not Answers, I prefer to write out the abbreviations. VoiceOver often does not read abbreviations correctly. Example: Type the full word "Boulevard" and not the abbreviated "Blvd". Only the ANSWERS must match the street names on the Google map.
  • The Google Map may use the highway symbol and the number of the road. Typically just the written number is announced. What is announced is what is used for the ANSWER. Example: If the Google Map displays the highway symbol and 64; only use "64" for the ANSWER.
  • Some downtown streets will have two names the highway/bypass number and a street name. Open the customized map and listen to the name that is announced. Remember, your ANSWER must match the announced name. Example: The visual Google map shows both (Highway) 64 Business and East St. but only "64" is announced. You must use "64" As the ANSWER; East St will not match and will not be accepted as the correct answer.
  • Do not select a higher number of "questions per round" than the number of available customized questions. The "next" button will be dimmed until there are at least the same number or higher number of questions than the number you selected in "number of questions per round". Example: If there are only 5 questions in the game and the Questions Per Round was marked as "10", you must change the Questions Per Round to be 5 or less.

Enabling O&Ms to quickly create maps to support O&M lessons, is a game changer! The possibilities of how these maps can be used are truly endless!